Previously we covered the action in the State Legislature to overturn the Kansas Supreme Court decision in State v. Prine, where a new trial was ordered for a child molester on the grounds that evidence of his past criminal activities was improperly admitted. (The court held that the actions he had committed before were not similar enough to the ones charged in the case at hand. Then Chief Justice Kay McFarland dissented, arguing that the evidence was admissible and that the Court was misreading its own precedents to create an overly strict test of similarity for no reason).
In February, the House passed HB2250 (proposed by Rep Lance Kinzer(R)) to explicitly allow the admission of this sort of evidence. The Senate Juciciary Committee passed an amendedment to modify the language in the Bill which was then passed by the whole Senate, unanimously. HB2250 has since been taken over as a vehicle for a different piece of legislation, but its original content, dealing with the admissibility of prior offenses has been added to SB44 (which creates criminal penalties for false claims against the state government). SB44’s conference report passed the Senate unanimously (with David Wysong(R) not voting) on April 2nd and passed the House unanimously on April 1st (with Joe Seiwert(R) not voting). The bill is therefore on its way to the Governor.
The Conference Committee version of the bill includes the Senate amendments, which narrow the scope of the original measure a little. For non-sexual offences, evidence relating to proving that a defendant followed a particular method is allowed to be admitted only if it is so similar that it would be reasonable to conclude that the same individual committed both crimes. The test articulated by the Court was that it be “so strikingly similar in pattern or so distinct in method of operation to the current allegations as to be a signature”. In sex offence cases the evidence would always be admissible, so long as it was relevant and probative.
The Conference Committee also added a severability clause, in case the new law is struck down. In her written opinion in this case Justice Beier had stated that it was up to the legislature to remedy the law surrounding admissability of this evidence, but challenged them to do so in a way that did not do “unconstitutional violence” to the defendant’s rights. If the Governor signs SB44 Justice Beier will probably get an opportunity to decide if the new law measures up to her standard.
The full text of the new measure is here. (Page 15)
The full text of the Conference Committee Brief is here.